Came across this wonderful article on USCCB a few days ago, and really wanted to share some of the points below. Sister Mary Ann Walsh does an amazing job of guiding us in how we can be evangelists by following Pope Francis’s example in today’s world! The article completely ties into a book I’m reading right now called Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture by Tim Sinclair (formal review to follow as soon as I finish this amazing book), where Tim talks about how the way we evangelize needs to change.
In her article, Sister Mary Ann called out these ideas on how Pope Francis wants us to evangelize (the color comments are mine…be sure to visit her article for hers):
- WITH REVERENCE: this could perhaps be the most important of his thoughts. It’s too easy to fall into the “us against them” thought pattern…as in, “my beliefs are right, therefore if you don’t share them then you’re wrong and unworthy of my respect”. Pope Francis takes it one step further by specifically calling out that we must not only listen but accept – there are many valid points that people outside of the faith make and we need to understand theirs before we can even think about sharing ours. It’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, you know? I know I sometimes find myself – as soon as someone expresses a different view – already making a mental conversation on points why they’re wrong. It’s a natural reaction, but one that – once recognized in ourselves – helps to lay the foundation for future dialogue and discussion.
- WITH HONESTY: being honest in our conversations ties directly into the “with reverence” point above. It’s one thing to sit with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs and nod your head in agreement while mentally creating counterarguments. This is not about right or wrong. It’s not about beating someone down with facts until they wave their white flag. It’s not about debating and backing them into a corner. It’s about having an open, respectful, caring conversation.
- WITH RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE: in order to have that open, respectful, caring conversation, it’s important for you to understand the different backgrounds each of us comes from. The world today is made up of people from many different faiths and ways of life. You don’t need to be an expert in each, but understanding – and appreciating – the differences helps guide you on the respectful and honest path. This reminds me of an amazing event our own parish does – on the night before Thanksgiving, we hold a “Children of Abraham” event where our pastor (Catholic) along with two other religions leaders (Jewish and Muslim) share a celebration of the similarities in each of our faiths. After all, we are all not only children of Abraham but children of God, and that alone makes us more alike than different from one another.
- WITH UPDATED KNOWLEDGE OF ONE’S OWN FAITH: it’s equally important to make sure you really know your own faith! For me, this was a direct hit home – during the recent Papacy selection, a dear friend asked many questions on the process…and I openly admitted I didn’t know the answers (that’s actually how this Popenary came to be!). In order to share our faith, we first have to know it. Really truly know it. Understanding your faith, and getting to know it better each day, is made even easier in today’s technological world. With great sites out there like the USCCB, CatholicMom, and so many others, information on your faith is just a click away.
- IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE DAY: it’s not necessary to begin a conversation with, “Dude, like, is God awesome or what?” – I definitely don’t think that’s what Pope Francis had in mind (though, if that works then go for it. But only if you live in California.). Sometimes, we can overwhelm others with the passion we have about our faith. We all know someone who is so excited and knowledgeable about their beliefs that we are bowled over in conversation with them! The language of today isn’t just about local colloquialism but about engagement. We must actively engage through personal relationships, connecting with people on that individual level, in the language and tone best understood by that person.